which feature is emphasized. Some characteristics of idioms are
more important than others but there must be many features involved in order to call an expression an idiom (M?ntyl? 2004, p28).
Fernando (1996: 3) lists three features that are commonly brought up with idioms: compositeness, institutionalization and semantic opacity. Compositeness means that idioms consist of more than one word, i.e. they are multiword expressions. Institutionalization denotes that idioms are the end product of ‘ad hoc’ expressions which have conventionalized and, therefore, idioms are conventionalized expressions. Semantic opacity stands for nonliteral features of idioms. The meanings of idioms are not the sum of their literal parts. However, Fernando (1996, p3) admits that these three characteristics
occur very commonly in many types of multiword expressions. It means that also such expressions as collocations, proverbs and similes can be categorized as idioms. Thus, there must be also other features that distinguish idioms from other similar expressions.
M?ntyl? (2004: 28-35) discusses five features that are generally considered when characterizing idioms. They are metaphoricity/figurativeness (they are used as synonyms), analysability/non-compositionality, fixedness of form, level of formality and multi-word expressions. Metaphoricity is regarded as anessential feature of an idiom and it is also the most commonly mentioned one. Non-compositionality is seen as an indication that idioms are dead, i.e. their meanings are arbitrary and not figurative. Fixedness of form, on the other hand, means that idioms do not tolerate any variation in their structure, they are frozen. The level of formality is connected to idioms in the sense that they are considered to belong to informal, spoken language rather than to formal, written language. Finally, idioms involve more than one word and, therefore, they are multi-word expressions.
However, M?ntyl? (2004, p.28-35) challenges these views. The five featuresmentioned above are reviewed on the basis of other idiom studies and each characteristic is critically considered as well as their significance in defining idioms. According to M?ntyl? (2004: 28) idioms are no longer seen as merely dead, frozen metaphors. There are several idioms that are not dead or frozen. The connection between metaphoricity and the origins of an idiom can be detected and idioms, in fact, tolerate variations. Nevertheless, if idioms are not arbitrary but they perform as single arbitrary words, it adds to the complexity of these expressions (M?ntyl? 2004, p.27). Despite this, idioms are more comprehensible if fixed notions about idiom features are put aside and their figurativeness is acknowledged. All in all, M?ntyl? (2004, p.35) remarks that instead of the importance or degree of any single feature, idiom should consist of the combination of these features. None of the features mentioned above is alone enough to label an expression as an idiom.
It is argued that figurative meaning is a function of so-called ‘literal’ meaning, and can only exist on the basis of compositional semantic structures. Idioms are approached as expressions that employ culturally prominent source domain scenarios in a figurative way with the purpose of projecting a clear evaluation onto a complex target situation.
2.2.2 Definition of Idioms
Idioms originate in phrases with a literal meaning which have settled firmly into the lexicon through repeated use. Many ‘literal phrases’ remain in constant circulation over considerable periods, unchanged in form and meaning (spread in butter, carve the joint, peel the potatoes). It is arguable that many of these, rather than being made up afresh on each occasion of use, are simply stored and recalled as wholes. Some of these phrases pass on into the next stage of development. They are figuratively extended, in terms of the whole expression, as has just been pointed out, but may or may not also preserve their original literal sense. Phrases that originated in the development of the railway network, such as go/run off the rails, reach the end of the line, and run into/hit the buffers, and which are now idiomatic, are among those which will still be understood in both a literal and figurative sense by many speakers. These are so-called ‘figurative idioms’.
Here different meanings of idioms are noted and referred to them .An idiom is an expression in which the meaning cannot be derived from the conjoined meanings of its elements. In figurative language, meaning is conveyed by suggesting that something is like something else. Therefore, the expression must be comprehended metaphorically. For instance, when someone says, “It’s raining cats and dogs,” it has nothing to do with cats and dogs. This idiom dating back to 17th century England means it is raining hard (during heavy rains in 17-century England, some streets became filthy rivers carrying cats and dogs). The reader must use context or prior knowledge to infer what the expression actually means. Every language has its own unique figurative language usages. In this fast-paced, media-dominated age (Internet, television), many communication skills, including familiarity with idiomatic usages, are waning. The high number of idioms and their frequency of use make them a critical component of comprehension and language acquisition. Idioms often confuse native speakers, and they are especially challenging for foreign students.
Idioms are one type of multi-word units (MWUs). However, over the years, although linguists and lexicographers tried to define and classify idioms, their work returned no consensus or classification criteria. Cowie (1998, p.218) notes this problem and comments, “Differences between word combinations such as free phrases, restricted collocations and idioms – all crucial to the foreign learner – are neither presented consistently nor explained adequately in reference works.” In their recent effort to re-define idioms based on previous criteria, Lynn and Laurie (2004, p.44) argue that the criteria established by previous linguists “have often been general so as to apply to the wide-ranging MWUs found in this category, and have been a description of them rather than a definition.” They therefore proposed a more restrictive definition to narrow-down traditional definitions. Specifically, they suggest three categories of idiomatic expressions: core idioms (non-compositional MWUs, the meaning of which cannot be predicted from the meaning of their constituent parts, for example, shoot the breeze), figurative (MWUs with metaphors) and ONCEs (one non-compositional element). By examining previous studies on idiom definition, Lynn and Laurie (2004) conclude that the key criterion to define an idiom from MWUs is its non-compositionality. In conclusion, Lynn and Laurie’s (2004) attempt to re-define idioms provides linguists and ESL teachers with more insight into the characteristics of idiomatic expressions and at the same time help suggest appropriate pedagogical approaches in teaching idioms. For example, one suggestion they made for the teaching of figurative is to introduce conceptual metaphors to L2 learners.
2.3 Employed strategies in idioms learning
Direct instruction is necessary to assure that students develop familiarity with commonly used idioms. Modeling the appropriate use of idioms in instruction is crucial. Repeated and correct exposure to idioms can build understanding and give students confidence to use the idioms themselves. Instruction is more effective if idioms are grouped according to metaphorical themes (i.e., colors: redneck, yellow belly, green with envy, blackball) or usage (nouns, verbs, adjectives).
An alternative strategy for idioms dictionaries would be to provide a reasonably detailed description of the source domain scenario with a particular emphasis on the evaluative role of the script. Examples should give the user a clear idea about the effect the borrowed elements will have on the utterance. General dictionaries ought to pre
sent idioms under the relevant senses of the word that serves as the most prominent marker of the source domain.
Gibbs (1992) believes that by developing a clear understanding of figurative language, students can further comprehend texts that contain metaphorical and lexical meanings beyond the basic word level.Honeck (1997) notes that figurative language is language that means one thing literally but is taken to mean something different and it is a special aspect of language.
2.3.1 Communicative Skills: Teach English Idioms with Dialogue Writing and Role-Play
Dialogues can provide situations for students to practice ordinary conversation and offerstudents ample practice with basic speaking skills in context. Firstly, dialogues can beviewed as short plays and used for students to act out rather than simply read aloud.Moreover, the dialogues the students write function as basic communication at all levels (Scott, &Ytreberg, L., 2000). In addition, putting pupils into pairs for the role-play inthe daily dialogues is an effective way of oral practice for various ages and levels (Scott, W.,&Ytreberg, L., 2000). Nunan (2003) stressed that role-plays are also excellent activitiesfor learners’ speaking in the relatively safe environment of the classroom before they mustdo so in a real environment. Therefore, dialogues offer students opportunities to act outand practice oral skill before encountering the real world.
2.3.2 Applying English Idioms through Dialogue Writing and Role-playin a particular context
Dialogues and role-plays are useful written and oral activities. So that, I assigned my studentsin pairs to write one dialogue by using the English idioms introduced in class. Then, theyacted the dialogue out in the following class. Dialogue writing could motivate students towrite without burden. Pair collaboration and role-play activity could help them rememberthe dialogue they wrote through repetitive practices. It was easier and fun for them toremember English idioms because they shared and enjoyed learning English idioms withfriends. Thus, dialogue writing and role-play are useful and interesting activities for students’meaningful and efficient drills.
Gibbs (1980) holds that a strong knowledge of idioms will help the students to be better speakers and negotiators. They will also be in a better position to use their knowledge in appropriate contexts. So, it would be true if we conclude that the amount of the frequency of idioms is an important aspect of vocabulary acquisition and language teaching (Fernando, 1996). Native speakers of a language use idioms all the time. Idiomatic usage is so common in every language, and of course in English, that it seems very difficult to speak or write without using idioms.
Films are motivating for EFL/ESL teaching because they embody the notion that “a film with a story that wants to be told rather than a lesson that needs to be taught (Ward &Lepeintre, 1996). Films are such valuable and rich resources for teaching because they present colloquial English in real life contexts rather than artificial situation; an opportunity of being exposed to different native speaker voices, slangs , reduced speeches , stress , accents , and dialects,(Stempleski,2000). It is also interesting to know whether being only aware of the literal meaning of the idioms, would enable the students to extend the literal meaning to figurative one. In other words, whether or not the awareness of the idioms ‘etymology as well as using the movie clips containing the idioms have any effect on the L2 learners ability to come up with their figurative meanings.
In a study Irujo (1986 ) states that in a second language learning classroom all the learners must be prepared to meet the challenge of idioms occurring frequently in spoken and written English. In another study Fine (1988) compared a foreign-language learner